LAS VEGAS — There was Conor McGregor, wearing yet another wild and crazy suit, standing in the ring where he had just lost about an hour and a half earlier. It was after midnight in Sin City and he wasn’t staying long. Or at least that was the plan. He had a party to get to; thrown in his honor across town. With a fresh glass of Irish whiskey in one hand and a bottle of his own soon-to-be-released brand in the other it basically had already started.
He was smiling at the post-fight press conference, and possibly a little buzzed. All was good in his world, even after millions had just watched Floyd Mayweather knock him out in the 10th round of their mega-fight. And why wouldn’t it be for the dashing, daring, swash-buckling MMA star, who can talk shit and charm you in the same sentence unlike any athlete in professional sports?
For 30 minutes of work he made a guaranteed $30 million with a projected $70 million additionally coming his way once the PPV buys, box office cut, merchandise, and all over revenue streams are counted. With the bright lights bouncing off his dark aviator sunglasses, masking some of the punishment he took from Mayweather, McGregor was beaming, laughing, and sporting one of those shit-eating grins. So he poured himself more whiskey to drink to the fact that in his first professional boxing match he had essentially scammed his way to winning the lottery. The joke was on you, not on the guy who looked awkward in the ring, appeared gassed by the fifth round, and could barely stand up in the fight’s final three rounds. Few thought he had a realistic chance. Defeat was basically inevitable. Still, he gets to laugh all the way to the bank.
All praise is due to McGregor, Mayweather, and the parties involved—way too many to list here—that made something the fans first started talking about years ago into something the media had to start discussing into something that couldn’t be ignored and finally a reality. Many thought the fight itself would be a spectacle, a joke, and nothing more. On paper, it looked like a scam. Selling a PPV for $100 or upwards of $10,000 per seat at T-Mobile Arena to see a novice take on a legend is a Bernie Madoff kind of hustle. But the promotion looks good in the end since the fight was so much better than expected. It was dramatic. It was thoroughly entertaining. And, strangely enough, ultimately satisfying.
What should have been a farce wasn’t that bad of a boxing match. It wasn't the best representation of boxing, but it ended without any controversy, in a fashion most experts saw coming. And while Vegas wasn't buzzing the way it did for Mayweather-Pacquiao two years ago, Mayweather-McGregor made boxing look good for a change, arguably giving fans their money's worth, when so many signs pointed to the opposite.
“It was a hell of a fight," McGregor said. "It was an honor to come over here on the boxing side and showcase my skills. There was a lot of disrespect for my skills. But I always knew when the fight comes around I'm going to show up and give a good account of myself."
So McGregor raised a toast when he was done talking. He had hugged Mayweather, thanked everyone for paying attention, then headed for the exits with a mob of Irish supporters and UFC media in tow, dying for one last sound bite. He obliged because he loves the attention. The party he was contractually obligated to attend post-fight would have to wait a few more minutes for his arrival. He’s not ready to walk into the sunset like Mayweather says he is.
“Any guy that’s calling me out, forget it," said Mayweather.
The living legend said Satuday was his last fight. He was adamant, in fact. But something tells us that, even at 40 years old and the owner of a perfect 50-0 record, Floyd might not be done. There continue to be rumors that one last dance with Pacquiao—for the right price—could seduce him for his 51st professional fight. The biggest payday in boxing history got Mayweather to fight again after he said he wouldn't following bout No. 49.
“I did walk away from the sport before,” Mayweather said. “But I’m not a damn fool. When I see an opportunity to make $300-350 million in 36 minutes I had to do it. But this is my last one. You guys have my word. I had a great career.”
As for McGregor, he likely heads back to UFC where he’s the promotion’s biggest draw. The likelihood of earning a payday like he just did—where he reportedly quadrupled his net worth in one night—won’t happen in the world of mixed martial arts. But McGregor and boxing are probably taking a break.
“This is not what he does,” UFC president Dana White said. “I think he did great [Saturday]. I don’t think there’s anything else to prove. I would rather he fight mixed martial arts.”
McGregor joked that he’d be hiring a bunch of sharks to count all the money he just made. More immediately, he’d probably rent out a massive yacht, throw a huge party for some close friend that's getting married, then figure out his next move. But he’s laughing all the way to the bank. His brand never stronger, his pockets never deeper, he's just 29. He now has his own promotion company—McGregor Sports and Entertainment. He can do whatever the hell he wants in the ring, in the octagon, and in the fight business.
"I'm young, I'm fresh, and I'm ready," McGregor said. "I have many options in mixed martial arts. I'm sure there are options that will present in the boxing world. Right now, I'm a free agent. My name is on the ring. That's something to be proud of. But I'm open. I love a good fight. And [Saturday] was a damn good fight."
Predictably, it turned out to be Floyd's. And that just might be the last we see of him in the ring. But after an unexpectedly impressive performance, Conor knows he's now the man in combat sports, the present and future of big ticket fight promotions. Who wouldn't drink to that?